How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
Be ready and available to talk
Kids have big questions, and it’s okay to answer them. Take cues from your kids and offer clear but brief answers in developmentally appropriate language. Keep the focus on what you are doing to prepare and prevention strategies that are within your control like proper hand washing and avoiding large crowds.
Fun idea to do with your kids:
Limit News Exposure
Even when it seems like they’re not listening, kids pick up on what they hear on TV and radio. Newscasters’ tone of voice can be enough to set off alarm bells for kids, and unfamiliar words like pandemic and outbreak can be fear-inducing. Opt for watching or listening to news reports when kids are in bed or choose to read news articles if possible.
Stick to Routines and Boundaries
Kids thrive with routines and boundaries, and predictability can be very comforting in anxious times. When some things feel out of control, routines can give kids a sense of security. School-aged kids might be used to seeing a visual schedule in their classrooms, so try using one at all. Write your daily routine on a whiteboard or make a paper schedule together. And make sure you include fun activities in your daily routine! Play board games, play outside, or have silly dance parties.
Set & Track Daily Goals
Set small daily goals and track progress so kids can work toward something important to them! Make sure the goals are within their control. Set goals around how much they’ll read each day, how many chores they can help with, or how many kind gestures they’ll show toward family members. Track progress on a goal chart so they can have a visual reminder of the progress they’re making!
Practice Controlled Breathing
If your child is showing signs of worry, take a moment to practice controlled breathing. You can simply count breaths for them (inhale 1 2 3 4 5 hold 1 2 3 4 exhale 1 2 3 4 5 6 7) or use tools like a slinky or bubbles. Help them slow their breathing and really exhale all of the air to calm their bodies and minds.
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Help your child release tension from their body with a progressive muscle relaxation. In this exercise, children gradually tense up their muscles and then release them.
If you have a child who likes to draw or write, try a creative exercise. Have your child personify their worry by imagining what the worry might look like if it were a real person, creature or thing. Maybe it looks like a big dragon. Maybe it looks like a monster. Or maybe it looks like an annoying mosquito. Then, they can draw a picture or comic or write a story about themselves as a superhero who defeats the worry!
Use a Journal or Feelings Tracker
Give your kids a journal to write about feelings or use a feelings tracker daily. Sometimes worries are so big it feels like they define our whole day, but when we keep track of our feelings throughout the day with a visual tool, it’s easier to see that worries are a smaller part of a healthy balance of emotions.